China Eastern Airlines has started putting its Boeing 737-800 jetliners back in use for commercial flights less than a month since a crash killed 132 people and led the company to ground 223 of the aircraft, the carrier said on Sunday. The airline said it had conducted systematic tests, structural checkups, and verified airworthiness data for each of the aircraft, and that test flights would be carried out on all planes before they resumed commercial services.
Boeing 737-800 planes with registration numbers close to the one that crashed on March 21 are still undergoing maintenance checks and evaluation, the company told Reuters in a statement. Flightradar24 data showed earlier in the day that China Eastern flight MU5843, operated by a three-year-old Boeing 737-800 aircraft, took off from the southwestern city of Kunming at 09:58 a.m. (0158 GMT) on Sunday and landed at 11:03 a.m. in Chengdu, also in southwestern China. That aircraft, which completed a test flight on Saturday, later returned back to Kunming, according to Flightradar24.
Another Boeing 737-800 jet conducted a test flight early on Sunday in Shanghai, where China Eastern is based, Flightradar24 data showed. On March 21, flight MU5735, which was en route from Kunming to Guangzhou, crashed in the mountains of Guangxi and killed 123 passengers and nine crew members in mainland China’s deadliest aviation disaster in 28 years.
China has retrieved both of the black boxes and said it would submit a preliminary report to the U.N. aviation agency ICAO within 30 days of the event.